final forty.

March 30, 2015

god how i loved my forties. they were gorgeous years, full of knock-you-to-your-knees sorts of lessons, moments of beauty so pure and unexpected it actually felt painful at times, and losses and a sort of internal stretching i wasn’t sure i would survive. fifty is here, i am in it mere days now, but already my forties seem a part of something behind me. the realization last week as i moved away from my forties and said hello to 50 that i had to say goodbye to an entire decade brought up a sadness i hadn’t expected. i am not lamenting 50 – quite the contrary, i see the amazing work women in their fifties produce and i see their beauty and that seasoned sort of grace and knowing, and i feel positively celebratory. mine is a family of late bloomers, especially the women, so i just know know know this will be a decade of kicking ass. but i wrapped my arms around my forties late last wednesday night, just as they were being whisked like a whisper in to my past, and let myself visit for a moment all they took from me and all they brought to me and how strong i am as a result, and then sent them off with my gratitude and humility, in to the atmosphere.

between the pain and the beauty is the myriad of thousands of moments. and for me, in my forties, there were words. words are so powerful, and i am so in awe of what they can carry both as we create them and as we ingest them. i have been looking recently at all the images i have created as a designer these past years, and though they too carry their own power and import and there is SUCH JOYFUL DELIGHT in creating recipes of form and color and content, i have realized that for me, images don’t contain the tenderness that words can construe. through words i have had the fortune of mapping a terribly important journey, the one that encompasses those key elements of a human life lived. love, loss of love, learning to parent and so in turn, selflessness. our life’s work, the success and failure we discover within it, the shift that occurs as we move away from the preoccupations of our younger selves and in to a kinder, more graciously expansive set of priorities. i feel very lucky within this framework.

mostly. i do admit that when maya followed her happy birthday last week with a ‘you’re a half century old!’ i got snagged for a long moment on the coffee i was drinking as i drove her to school. The strangeness of looking back on my time here is just that: i am Looking Back, and my life suddenly seems organized in to clusters of tens. here are some visuals, and trust me, seeing myself at ten year intervals is doing nothing to clarify any of this for me either; i thought of adding a word or words to help us all understand what it all means, but this is as far as i got: 10, 20, 30….

tenBW

 

 

twenty

 

 

thirty

 

 

fortymaybeBW

 

 

kl50BW

it is not surprising to those who know me even a little that i tend to be a linear thinker, but this strange and unexpected compartmentalization is a lot, even for me.  i just haven’t paid that much attention to numbers, or what they represent. i welcomed my thirties with gusto, and moved in to my forties with a sense of rightness and joy wrapped around me like a delicious cashmere coat. for the first time ever, the numbers side of things is resonating, so i can only imagine this may be an inherent part of moving past this threshold. tina tells me the moon and stars and planets are all where they should be, my houses are in order, and i can breathe deeply and continue doing my work. seahags you know what i mean here. maybe this nickel of decades under my belt is simply here to inspire review, reflection, appreciation. in this wash of look back and a bit of uncertainty, i will go with that.

finally, forty deluxe has been for me a place to process, expose some of my greatest fears and joys, vomit emotionally when the need arose, and find my center among a safe and carefully chosen audience. the fact that this little blog has had over 12,000 hits since its inception in 2009 has me utterly befuddled; for those who have been here without an invitation, i hope you have enjoyed the ride or gleaned something that brought insight or joy. i don’t know that i’ll be here any time soon, or at all, again. seems like it may be time to try on a different sort of blog. so for now forty deluxe, and my sweet friends who visited occasionally, i bid you adieu. until we meet again, whether here, or somewhere else. time will tell.

in the meantime, and to further the poetry of numbers, this is my 50th blog.

xo

what is it the winter-bearers of the world say about march? comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb? this is my march, every year, though there is nothing winter about it. it is the birthday onslaught, all the piscesians and ariesians I know – and there are many, including moi – congregate to celebrate or commiserate the passing of another year, then ping! just like that, the month ends with a wallop (my actual birth-day), flowers start to bloom and the spring to summer countdown begins. it seems like the month takes forever to arrive then in a heartbeat it is here and gone, and suddenly i can buy mangos in the produce aisle again.

this year was different. my sissy was at long (and gloriously) last exiting her forties, and there needed to be something really special about the passage to her fifties. plans started not long after the first of the year and thank god, for i felt like i was planning my wedding again there were so many things to consider. for those of you who heard me say that more than once since about the middle of february, let me apologize for doing it again here.

for the truth is, making decisions and deciding details was lovely, and back-to-back parties for my one and only sister was an amazing gift to be able to give. the sweetest chef and her man traveled from far away to make loreen and a glorious handful of her closest friends a beautiful meal. myriam wove tissue in to oversized white roses hanging in the air, and the table which stretched forever and held us all in two teeth-straight rows across from each other was laid with the real and very fragrant thing. old silver and delicate glasses and pretty faces were lit with candlelight and an abundance of wine, and loreen in the midst of it all was simply beautiful. fifty, and beautiful.

two weeks later it was my turn. 46. forty six, hmm…what to do? after the weekend-long extravaganza for loreen, it felt perfect to be still and be quiet and keep my own festivities sweet and simple. an early morning coffee date and yoga and perfect thrift shopping and a nap and a tiny, dreamy gathering with my sissy lou and two friends for food and cocktails, and i felt sated. happy. loving. loved.

that warmth, the sated and loved warmth – for me it creates or allows us to witness beauty in ways that we don’t in our day to day. perhaps it is just the love of birthdays (my own in particular), and the joy that my friends are mine that i feel, but sinking in to the celebration of birth and existence, however small, is a singular moment amidst the chaos of a crazy life that takes me right back to being nine years old. i had a new schwinn with a banana seat, dinner at martinez’ mexican restaurant, and my mom’s spice cake with cream cheese frosting that was not to be beat. it is the cluster of such moments (felt now but also remembered), when the walls of our lives don’t push in and they don’t push out – they just surround us seamlessly, languidly, gracefully – that sweeps me in to that center space of what i can only see as not balance, or harmony, but beauty.

of course i don’t mean beauty in the physical sense, though it has its place and import too; i’d be lying if i said it didn’t. the beauty of youth, and innocence, and being on this side of all the important moments to come, what a glorious space to occupy. but there are other kinds of beauty which i am beginning to see and feel and understand and they are so much deeper and calming and tender-hearted at their core. the beauty of letting go, the beauty of your child’s opening moments of real independence, the beauty of friendships spanning ten, twenty, thirty years. the beauty of laugh lines, of a lifetime of thanksgiving dinners, of the first leaves on the branches of a century old tree. our crepe myrtle is covered in the tiniest leaves and buds in the youngest green of green (the one infused with all that delicious yellow), and maya and i marvel that just weeks ago its most sublime display was gray-brown twigs against an evening sky.

i am now officially closer to fifty than forty. and as the path continues to unravel in front if me, as if a golden carpet is unrolling just steps before my feet hit the ground, i look for beauty. and where i can’t find it, i create it. it is what i do, what i’ve always done, and i never even knew it, or understood it. someone asked me recently what i do for a living, and i answered, without thinking for even a moment, “i make things pretty”. saying it, hearing it, knowing the simple words came from me, it was this silly but epiphanous moment of “okay. okay, then. i think i just figured out who i am.” and it only took forty-six years.

there is much about our world that isn’t pretty. but this planet we live on, the one that existed so beautifully before our unyielding consumption of natural resources, wars that kill in the name of money, land and religion, and a blatant disregard for the finite balance of nature and the necessary delicacy of its coexistence with humanity, is a gorgeous place. and i have this girl, my daughter, the willowy one with the golden hair and narrow ankles and tiny sprinkle of freckles across her nose, that i have to explain things to, like where beauty begins and ends, and why.

so if march, the month of births celebrated – my sister’s, my friend’s, and my own – illuminates nothing more than what my job here is, to embellish the life of my daughter and the other lives i touch, with some sort of beauty, i accept. i like the job description, and hope to be rewarded generously for my work.

transparency

January 26, 2011

i’ve used the phrase ‘oh, dear’ twice in the last two days, both times committing it to print. and here it is again. oh, dear. this blog has been brewing and percolating and sludging around for a while now and i’m not quite sure (but then i’m never quite sure) what may follow. so you may want to make a cup of tea. or a highball. whatever it takes to get prepped for a little exposure.

there is someone i know who has used the word transparency quite a lot in the times we have spoken, and based on the strange ebb and flow of our interactions, the word has stuck with me, mostly because it is so contrary to my experience of him. but i like the word, what it stands for, and i have been looking a lot in to my own heart to find my most transparent self. mind you, i am very reserved in some ways and quite private and can be surprisingly vain. all of this to say: transparency is not a place where i have wanted to live, or even pay a short visit, until recently.

this is me. last night, in my little house, at the end of a long day of taking care of my sick daughter. no makeup, no soft or forgiving  lighting, and with a blemish the size of the north star just to the west of my left eyebrow. i told ricky when he was leaving with our sweet and feverish girl yesterday to feel free to use it in guiding him home if he needed to. he liked that one. and i like to make him laugh still. in any case, this is me, stripped down, visually…transparent. at least i think so.

i am forty five years old and for all intents and purposes, a single mom. i’ll turn forty six in march, a month that will also mark the five year point of being separated from my husband. my husband who is an amazing father to my daughter, a dear friend, and a lost love. these losses happen, and though we must allow for them and learn from them, they are still steeped in the heartbreaking-est sort of sadness. the other side of that, gratefully, is my  appreciation for all that i learned with rick, how deeply i was loved by him, and how hard we have worked to create a safe and loving life for maya and for us, whatever the us that is us, is.

the last year of my life has brought incredible joy. i have a beautiful house to live in. i work with wonderful people. i have started to catch up on sleep at long last and feel my energy and my body coming back. my mind is filled with things i want to do and musings and imaginings and daydreams even, of what will come. my daughter still thinks i’m the cat’s meow. the sun shines. the plants grow. rain falls. my friends love me well, and i try to love them better. my sister cracks up with me daily and is there when i can’t stop crying. my parents are alive, and they love me as they did when i was five. and ten. and twenty. just as i love maya. with my greatest and most tender heart, the heart that continues to expand exponentially as the days and months of parenthood zoom by. who knew a heart could grow so big? certainly not me.

the last year has also brought men. an overflowing handful of them. they show up and introduce themselves and weave themselves in and around my life. they are there but not there. some of them are solid. are friends. are lovely to know and i am grateful for the…men-ness they hold. others are watery, they come and they leave and they come again or maybe they don’t. they desire, and express, and do their best. but they don’t fit. or their lives have no real way of overlapping with, or becoming a part of, mine. and in this fresh chapter of losing my opacity, at least in this moment, i am forced to see them, even long for them, and let them go.

that’s me over there, too. last year a very tall man with the most beautiful heart became my friend for a time until it was clear a friendship wasn’t really a workable thing for us. but he graced me with a week of birthday celebrations and the sweetest gestures and the loveliest gifts, and i felt like a quiet princess in the midst of it all. i miss him, and i miss our friendship very much. he may have no idea. but it is the truth, the one i would only say to my closest friends and to the world at large right here in blog-land. and this was me in my pretty party dress that i wore for a perfect birthday dinner, and the dinner was over, and i knew i wouldn’t get to see this friend any more. sadness. and lessons. ugh. those two things when they are hand-in-hand can be so tough.

i have let the men go. and the main man, the husband who is soon to be my wasband, well, i am preparing to let him go in the big way soon also. we’ve known for a while we will be jumping on the d-train, and with the five year mark approaching, it may just be time.

and if it is time, and the door closes on the us that was us (and isn’t the us that we are now, because truly, there is still joyfully an us!) what happens then? do the peter pans who have been flying around find another flight path? do i come crashing in to the person who will be mine, or will i find myself walking slowly on a different sort of road toward a different sort of person? i don’t know, and i wish i did, i so wish i did. for there is gardening to do, and food to make, and wine to drink, and couches to get wrapped up in each other on. and there are doctor’s appointments, and christmas dinners, and rainy sunday mornings, and school plays to attend. there will be crushing sadness and explosive happiness and all the in-betweens that will be, well, in between.

so goodbye flyboys. i will be here, with my feet on the ground, parenting, and painting, and cooking, and working, and watching my daughter become more of who she will be. i will wrap my arms around her as long as she allows, and wrap my arms around the people i love. and trust that as i look in to the faces of people whose paths i cross, there will be recognition in many of them. and love, in one. because this is who i am. and so is this. and this, too.

 

 

dancing.

November 28, 2010

today was a western day. deep blue sky, billowy white clouds on the horizon line no matter which horizon in which direction one happened to be looking toward. crisp air with that snappy, cool feeling, but all of it so different than somewhere non-west. its the light i think, that pink orange light with the powder blue around the edges that infuses a california day like no other. already there is snow on the mountains, the very same mountains that since my childhood have taken on a shadowy purple blue when fall gets close to winter. i left san francisco at thirty and spent a perfect few months in my home town, waking up to those winter mountains every day and breathing them in before taking my dad’s black lab for a walk at the base of mt. baldy.

(before i go any further, let me for a moment interrupt what will follow by saying i know i was supposed to stop writing and jump fully in to book mode. but i can’t help it. so forgive me and i promise to post a book blog very soon. very, very soon. maybe even tomorrow.)

thursday was thanksgiving and my little family spent it with my bigger family, and after the wine and house-hopping and dinner, we headed back to my sister’s house and jumped immediately into pajamas for movies and a sleepover. we all, i think, slept the holiday sleep of too much food and not having to be anywhere first thing in the morning, and after hours of coffee and cartoons and dog-loving (there were four including my lucybean), i headed home with kid and dog in tow. and wouldn’t you know, it was right there on the road, with ray on the radio, a soy latte in hand, and my rear view mirror informing me, that a sudden and perfect moment of grace and balance presented itself, moving through me like a first sip of cocoa, warm and sweet.

it was there around me. i could hear lucy snoring from her doggy bed in the very back of the car; maya was behind my seat and side-lit from the window so that her hair, hanging in front of one eye as she read, turned honey and golden. the day outside was breath-taking, my old SUV contained within the two little lives i am responsible for, and as we rolled home, i kept looking in my mirror, wrapping myself in all that warm feeling and sense of harmony. i am doing this. not always perfectly, but in moments i get it really right, and i am able to step back for just the tiniest bit, and view from outside the things which i love and which move me and which make me work harder than i ever thought i could.

this is the dance, one of many these days, and i am so busy learning so many steps for so many different kinds that it seems i rarely get any one really right. it’s okay: by doing a few pretty well here and there, and somewhat occasionally, it seems some of my steps are getting me to where i’m supposed to be. but god i hope i don’t look as clumsy as i sometimes feel.

when i was little, my mom would buy these little cans of apple juice with the pull tab for my sissy and i to put in our lunches. i would stick one in the freezer on friday nights, and on saturday, i would bundle up if it was cold outside, take the whole top of the apple juice can off with a can opener, grab a spoon and whatever i was reading, and sit in a rocking chair on the backyard patio, my nose in a book and my spoon scraping out frozen juice. i was absolutely content, alone, outside, with my book and my favorite sweater on. i can still remember the sound and feel my spoon made, digging out the frozen juice, and how simple and easy it was to gather what i cherished around me and feel deeply happy. sun on my face, in the pretty backyard of the house we grew up in, our dog daisy at my feet. this is the feeling i had on my way home yesterday – the important things gathered around me, and therefore, me, utterly, deeply happy.

if only other parts of the dance were so simple. this year i have come in contact with, and watched move in and out of my life, people from places both likely and unlikely. some have been invited in. others have shown up and asked for a spot on my dance card. still yet, i have been visited by long lost friends from a lifetime lived a hundred years ago. delicate and kindred souls have returned from travels abroad and now they are here, right in my very own neighborhood, and the sheer accessibility of them makes me giddy it is so unbelievable and perfect. if i had a good arm i could throw a wicked curve ball, and maybe even hit a window at their place, they’re so close.

and for the not-quite-yet-formed connections with newer faces and equally compelling souls, i remain in wonder of them. wondering why they are here. wondering what i did to deserve them. wondering where to put them, or not put them, or whether to just allow, and see if indeed they inevitably land somewhere close by, or if they are just stopping for a moment before drifting on. as much as i want to shout “stay!” i know i can’t keep them close if they have other places to be, if their heartstrings are being pulled in other directions, if there isn’t really the time to explore and discover and learn each other. it is the sad counterpart to connection: the realization that things joined can be severed; that most times a finite balance of forces and influences need to be met in order for true and intimate connection to take place; that possibility, doesn’t always mean, actuality.

and so i sit, as if in a meadow surrounded by glorious trees and swaying grasses and fragrant flowers, and i try to see and smell and take in all that surrounds me. and while there, i look for the balance and harmony, however fleeting or momentary, that i felt those days ago in my sunny car with my sunny kid and snoring dog. and for those who are walking by, or stopping by, or staying, i can only utter, in my most humble and gratitude-soaked voice, thank you for the visit. i’ll be here, studying my dance steps, hoping to see you again very soon.

dropping a few pounds.

October 22, 2010

is forty five too young for a retrospective? is this a reasonable place to go after a few years of rather intense introspection? i am looking backward and looking forward and checking in with all the brave girls i know, and all of us, in our own particular ways, are, simply put, on fire. there is a bounty of work and love and heartache and growth happening for all, and i can’t help but thinking, these lessons and the knowledge gleaned from them, just have to be placed somewhere.

but before i get to that whole drama, let me preface. there are swirly thoughts pouring out of my head. i have spent days going through 17 million pieces of paper – schoolwork from maya’s kindergarten and first grade years – and i am so overwhelmed and overwrought by the sheer mass of spelling tests, and math problems, and stories, and turkeys and pumpkins and easter bunnies made out of wax paper and crayons and tissue paper and glitter glue sticks that i just want a stiff drink. or two. damn it i wish i still smoked so i could have a few cigarettes and feel momentarily good and then icky for hours, which is what happens if i try to smoke.

mind you, this isn’t the only purging going on in my life; this is just one tip of many icebergs that i am beginning to endeavor to climb. i am not a spring cleaner; rather, the trips to goodwill and the recycling bin in the back yard and thoughts of “do i have enough wares and more importantly enough patience for a yard sale?’ always hit in the fall. its like i have to clear space to gear down, say so long to lingering summer sunsets, and store food in the sides of my mouth for winter. wait, i am mixing too many metaphors. suffice it all to say that the little note on my facebook page which reads OUT WITH THE OLD is really hitting home as days grow shorter and rain begins to fall.

i have been musing and loitering and dragging my feet in the wistful back rooms of sadness and decision-making for a while now. i’ve tried things on, fallen in love with a few lovely gents and vintage coats and one really unbelievable bathtub porsche that was just my shade of celery green. i have said goodbye to a lot – i continue to – and though my heart hurts from the loneliness of parting with what i love, it does continue to beat.

and so here i am, still letting go, and trusting that what is true will show itself, and what isn’t, won’t. i stick to what i know and love, and just like the plenitudes of objects purged and given away and stored in boxes, what matters somehow always comes back, returns to us even as we have set it free or set it aside or handed it generously to someone else. it may not be the same shape, or figure in as we thought it should, but one day you turn around and bam! there it is.

i have written about the resonance of objects, the lasting impressions of a five-minute interaction with a stranger, the lost photograph discovered which fills a gap we didn’t even know existed. it must be the vibration of connection, and the specific vibratos that strike a chord and stretch out before us. could such a vibration stay in our hearts and shake us for years? i don’t see why not. i still dream about the beautiful boy who threw a glass of ice water down my shirt in a stockholm night club twenty-plus years ago. he was bold, and i noticed, and it made me feel shocked and alive.

these are big icebergs in front of me. all i can see to do – knowing that i can’t avoid or get around them – is to try to scale them with some degree of courage and grace. have i mentioned they are big, really very big? and that i am scared of their vastness? so very scared. but i have weathered a bit in this lifetime, and parenting has taught me to trust in my own abilities at fortitude and gentleness, and so i work to pull the kindness and kick-ass-ness to the surface, even if, at times, they are hiding behind fear in the least accessible part of me.

all this to say, the purge continues, space gets created and then filled, again, and my life’s furniture continues to be at the mercy of me (a chronic re-arranger) as i move things around to build better path ways and build love and dive deep for all that is true and cozy and meaningful.

it is in that spirit, the spirit of celebrating what has been and what is coming, that i turn over this little blog for a bit of time to the book project it was originally created to support. Whether retrospectively or introspectively, 45 seems a perfect moment to share stories of strong, creative, soulful women. women who have survived, have sought, have flourished. there will be pictures here and some words maybe and an open invitation to respond in like. forty women will write and photograph about life in their forties, and though many have been invited and already participated, i welcome any of you to post anything at all.

and just so you know, when tossing out some things, and cataloging others, and doing the work of living this mid-point healthfully and heartfully, a big bunch of gerber daisies on a corner table is always good for a newly re-arranged space, internal or otherwise. go buy some daisies, and tell me what its all about if you feel so inclined.